Daily Archives: August 16, 2011

Outraged first responders decry exclusion from 9/11 memorial ceremony


New York City police officers attend last year’s September 11 memorial ceremony. First responders are not invited this year.

CNN | Aug 16, 2011

By Jeff Stein

New York (CNN) — When debris rained from the sky in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, the first responders to the terrorist attack did not turn away. They rushed to the World Trade Center buildings while the world around them crumbled.

Yet now, after all the wreckage has been cleared and the rebuilding has begun, their path is again blocked — not by flying chunks of smoldering rubble, but by space constraints.

The first responders are not invited to this year’s September 11 memorial ceremony at ground zero, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office confirmed Monday.

It’s a painful insult for many of the approximately 3,000 men and women who risked their lives, limbs and lungs on that monumental day, puncturing another hole in a still searing wound.

In a statement, Bloomberg spokesman Andrew Brent said the commemoration ceremony is for the victims’ families.

“While we are again focused on accommodating victims’ family members, given the space constraints, we’re working to find ways to recognize and honor first responders, and other groups, at different places and times,” Brent said.

But first responder John Feal, founder of an advocacy group for the police officers, firefighters, civilian volunteers and others who worked at ground zero, assailed Brent’s response, saying Bloomberg “lives in his own world.”

“The best of the best that this country offered 10 years ago are being neglected and denied their rightful place,” Feal said.

Denise Villamia, a first responder who worked at ground zero for several months, cried over the phone as she recalled her “totally heartbroken” reaction to the news that she could not attend the memorial service.

“I’m crying because it’s really a big betrayal on the part of the city, to rob me from my way to pay homage and to find that comfort and healing,” she said. “I feel that I have been robbed of my way to pay tribute.”

In addition to the victims’ families, several politicians, including two presidents, are expected to be in attendance. Bloomberg’s office would not provide specifics on the ceremony’s arrangements, but did note that the first responders have not been invited to the preceding nine memorial services, either.

Yet first responder Morris Faitelewicz, vice president of the Auxiliary Police Supervisors Benevolent Association, called that explanation “nonsense.” Faitelewicz said that, while there are not usually formal invitations, first responders have been able to attend all of the previous ceremonies simply by showing up.

Not allowing them to attend this year — the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks — is an especially galling affront, he said.

Additionally, many of the first responders see the decision, first reported by the New York Daily News, as evidence of the city’s attempt to push to the background their untreated ailments in the official narrative of recovery and renewal.

If the responders attend the memorial service, “the promise ‘we’ll never forget’ becomes a blatantly obvious lie — a public display that the government didn’t do right by us,” says Bonnie Giebfried, a first responder.

“It’ll bring up the issue that we’re basically walking dead, and that we’re not being treated.”

Despite the passage in December of the $4.2 billion Zagroda Act, which provides medical treatment and compensation to responders, many first responders told CNN that the government has failed to address their health needs.

Giebfried has suffered from a failing liver and kidneys, a crushed arm, elbow and wrist; post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue, encroaching lupus and other diseases. All were caused by the dust, debris and other substances to which she was exposed on 9/11, she said.

On that day, Giebfried, an emergency medical technician at the time, was twice entombed in sheared building fragments, and twice escaped.

She and her partner, Jennifer Beckham, transported people to safety and set up makeshift triage stations. She watched bodies hit the ground and explode “like a bouncing ball,” and suffered three asthma attacks through a harrowing day of devastation.

Giebfried said her ongoing medical travails have disabused her of the belief that the United States honors and looks after its service members. Being excluded from the memorial proceedings was yet another confirmation of this, she said.

“If the Founding Fathers ever saw what had happened to us responders, they would roll over in their graves,” she said. “Leaving first responders and survivors out of the 10th anniversary is absolutely ludicrous.”

Her frustrations were echoed by others.

Father Stephen Petrovich, who drove to ground zero from Huron, Ohio, hours after the terrorists struck, spent weeks at the site removing and blessing the remains of shattered bodies. While there, he says, he inhaled carcinogens that damaged his lungs, and is now in hospice care.

“I don’t think they want us there because of all the problems we’ve had,” Petrovich said. “It’s like we’ve been dropped off the face of the earth.”

In July, the World Trade Center Health Program, which administers funds from the Zagroda Act, ruled that first responders would not receive compensation for cancer treatment because there is no established causal link between the incidence of cancer and exposure to the site on September 11, citing a dearth of “published scientific and medical findings.”

A first responder who also spent months at ground zero, the Rev. Terry Lee called not being invited back for the ceremony “a rip in the heart.”

Lee said the country should honor those who responded at its most dire hour of need to encourage others to respond to crises.

“I believe attending will help the healing process … if we go; we can tell our fellow man to get involved, because, ‘hey, America takes care of its own.'”

Futuristic ‘Sleepbox’ debuts in Moscow


Would you spend the night in this? The Sleepbox at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow resembles a vending machine from afar.

cnngo.com | Aug 16, 2011

By Tiffany Lam

We figured tourist lodgings in expensive cities couldn’t get more “basic” than capsule hotels.

We figured wrong.

A Moscow company is now marketing “Sleepboxes” — freestanding, mobile boxes with beds inside — for travelers stranded overnight, or those in need of a quick snooze. The Sleepboxes are meant to be installed in airports — even at departure lounges — and rented for 30 minutes to several hours at a time.

A Sleepbox is currently installed at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.

“We travel a lot and many times we faced a problem of rest and privacy in airports,” says co-designer Mikhail Krymov of design firm Arch Group, who together with Alexei Goryainov came up with the idea of Sleepbox. “And as we are architects, we like to think of solutions.”

Measuring 1.4 meters wide, two meters in length and 2.3 meters in height, Sleepbox’s star feature is a two-meter-long bed made of polymer foam and pulp tissue that changes bed linen automatically.

It also comes with luggage space, a ventilation system, WiFi, electric sockets and an LCD TV.

Sleepbox

The model unveiled in Moscow is a “hostel” version of the Sleepbox, which includes an additional bunk bed and fold-up desk.

“Imagine the situation that you are in the modern metropolis, where you are not a local resident, and you have not booked a hotel,” the design firm says on its website. “Thanks to Sleepbox, any person has an opportunity to spend the night safely and cheaply in case of emergency, or when you have to spend few hours with your baggage.”

The design firm says that the box can be placed at railroad stations, expo centers and even on the streets of countries with warm climates.

“We hope that Sleepboxes will be available all over the world,” says Krymov. “Today we are offering Sleepboxes to different companies in Europe, Asia, Africa and the U.S.A. Generally the price of one box starts from US$10,000.

“The idea is to to sell Sleepboxes to local companies, who will be local operators of the business.”

We’d like to see them in offices for fatigued workers, as well as shopping malls for tired boyfriends and husbands.

Vatican reveals secret parchment conferring papal knighthood on Mozart


Mozart Chevalier of The Golden Spur

The Vatican has promised other documents from the “closed period” of World War II.

theaustralian.com.au | Aug 16, 2011

by James Bone

A LAMBSKIN parchment conferring a papal knighthood on the boy prodigy Mozart is to be put on public view for the first time as the Vatican opens up its secret archives.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was 14 when he attended a performance of Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on April 11, 1770. Because Allegri’s composition for two choirs was considered sacred music, the Roman Catholic Church forbade its reproduction.

But Mozart, touring Italy with his father Leopold, returned to his room and transcribed the 15-minute work. “You have often heard of the famous Miserere in Rome, which is so greatly prized that the performers are forbidden on pain of excommunication to take away a single part of it, to copy it or to give it to anyone,” Leopold wrote to his wife. “But we have it already. Wolfgang has written it down.” The feat earned Mozart celebrity and an invitation to an audience with Pope Clement XIV, who conferred on him the Chivalric Order of the Golden Spur.

In the letter to Mozart the Pope said that he had “agreed to the Petitions in your name”, triggering speculation that it was the prodigy’s pushy father who had asked for the award.

The Vatican document, dated July 4, 1770, bears the papal seal of St Peter the fisherman casting his nets on to the sea. Clement XIV praises Mozart for excelling in “suavissimo cymbali sonitu”, literally “the sweetest sound of cymbals”, since his earliest youth.

Mozart was at first proud of his papal honour, signing a letter to his sister “Chevalier de Mozart”. He wore the insignia of the order on his breast, as seen in a 1777 portrait. In a letter to his father on October 17 of that year, however, Mozart recounts how, invited to give a concert, he was mocked by assembled noblemen who claimed the cross was worth no more than a pinch of snuff.

“It is not gold, only copper, ha! ha!” one nobleman said. “By no means – it is lead, ha! ha!” Mozart replied, burning with rage. After that he removed the title “Knight” from his signature.

The document conferring the Golden Spur is one of 100 objects to be put on view at the Capitoline Museums in Rome in February to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the archive, which has vast holdings dating to the 8th century. The documents to be put on display range from Galileo’s admission of heresy in 1633, for arguing that Earth goes around the sun, to a letter written by English peers to Pope Clement VII in 1530, calling for Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be annulled.

The Vatican archives have been embroiled in controversy over the Church’s refusal to allow access to its records on Pope Pius XII’s response to the Holocaust. The exhibit will contain a 1934 letter written to Hitler by Pope Pius XI in 1934 and the Vatican has promised other documents from the “closed period” of World War II.

Record-breaking cold, snowstorms stranding residents in New Zealand


Residents have been unable to leave their houses in Wellington, NZ

updatednews.ca | Aug 15, 2011

The polar blast that closed roads and cut power to thousands of homes continues to hold a tight grip on the country with more heavy snow expected this evening – but the end is in sight.

The freezing weather sweeping up New Zealand has brought snow to winterless Northland, broken Auckland’s record coldest temperature, and caused chaos around the country.

Residents have been unable to leave their houses in Christchurch and Wellington today as the roads were too unsafe to drive on, and public transport has been severely hit. Travellers have been stranded at airports as some flights were cancelled, particularly in Christchurch and Queenstown where the airports were closed for part of the day.

John Key called on employers to be compassionate to workers who were snowed in, and said the timing of the weather was “slightly lucky” as farmers were just beginning lambing season.

“If there is a whole lot of snow and ice and you can’t get out of your driveway then you’d expect employers to take a generous view towards that,” Key said.

Mail will not be delivered for a second day in some parts of the country, and the entire lower North Island will miss the post today.

Mount Tutamoe, just north of Dargaville, was dusted with snow this morning.

Tramper Viv Trounson said the snow on the summit was two inches thick when he made an early morning trek. He was about 1900 feet up the mount when it started and he said snow fell steadily for around an hour.

“The snowflakes were as big as 20c pieces,” he said. ” It was absolutely wonderful, it was beautiful.”

Jaime Melanson, who lives in Mahuta Gap just south of Dargaville, said the snow was accompanied by wind gusts of 111kmh at 8am.

RECORD COLD

The polar blast that closed roads and cut power to thousands of homes continues to hold a tight grip on the country.

While more heavy snow expected this evening, forecasters say the end is in sight.

Travellers were stranded at airports as some flights were cancelled, however Christchurch and Queenstown airports have now reopened.

MetService spokesman Bob McDavitt said the icy southerly causing havoc across the country was expected to strengthen again later today, before gradually easing from late Wednesday.

“While more snow is likely, the end is in sight. It’s still a few days away though.”

He said snow showers in Canterbury and Marlborough were expected to spread north to reach the central North Island tonight, with snow falling to about 400 metres.

More wild weather has already reached Wellington this afternoon with snow reported in city suburbs. A further 15 to 30cm snow was expected in near the capital this evening. Severe wind chill to coastal areas between Canterbury, Wellington and the Wairarapa was also forecast.

The heaviest snow was expected in Canterbury, with 15-30cm at lower levels and 30-60cm above 300m.

But New Zealanders had good news to look forward to – MetService said the temperature would creep up by about one degree each day until the end of the week.

It’s been a cold few days for many in parts of the country as the winter storm set icy records in Auckland and

Wellington where snow fell for the first time in nearly half a century.

Mount Tutamoe, just north of Dargaville, was also dusted with snow this morning.

Tramper Viv Trounson said the snow on the summit was two inches (5cm) thick when he made an early morning trek.

He was about 1900 feet up the mount when it started and he said snow fell steadily for around an hour.

“The snowflakes were as big as 20c pieces,” he said. ” It was absolutely wonderful, it was beautiful.”

Climate scientist Georgina Griffiths, of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), said yesterday was the coldest day in Auckland since records began in 1961.

The temperature at the airport reached 8.1 degrees Celsius – compared with the previous lowest high of 8.7C, on July 4, 1996.

While at the Wellington Airport the temperature got to 6.8C making it the second coldest day there since records began in 1959, the first being 6.5C on June 21, 1976.

NIWA also confirmed a large number of record low August maximum temperatures yesterday, particularly in North Island locations.

At Tauranga’s airport, the mercury fell to 8.9C – its lowest since 1941. Temperatures dropped to 3.5C in Martinborough – the lowest in August since 1986 and in Waiouru the mercury fell to -1.0C, the lowest since 1972.

In Palmerston North temperatures fell to 6.2C – the lowest August temperature since 1940, and in Hamilton, the mercury dropped to 6.8C, the second coldest day in August since 1940. Gisborne also recorded its second lowest temperature since 1940 at 8.2C.

TREACHEROUS CONDITIONS

Many state highways around New Zealand were closed this morning, including the Desert Road and Rimutaka Hill road in the North Island and the Lewis Pass and Arthurs Pass in the South Island.

Police have warned of treacherous driving conditions as the snow would turn to ice, which has already seen one car slide off the road on the southbound lane near the Tawa off ramp this morning.

Conditions in the northern hill suburbs of Wellington remained hazardous with 24 hours of snow now frozen on the ground.

The Transport Agency was liaising with police to get the slush swept off roads, and grit poured over the worst-hit places to give more traction.

These include the Ngauranga Gorge, State Highway One near Otaki, Levin and Manakau, and State Highway 56 near the Longburn overbridge where numerous cars were reported to have slid off the road.

Mail was not be delivered for a second day in some parts of the country, and the entire lower North Island missed the post today.

Many children stayed at home as some school in Wellington and all schools in Christchurch were closed. And bus services were disrupted in both cities.

About 1000 homes were without power in Lincoln, Rakaia, Greendale and West Melton. Power was also out to 420 homes in Upper Hutt and about 350 homes in South Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu and Wairarapa.

The worst was not over with residents in the lower North Island being warned that more power cuts were expected today.

MI6 produced bogus Iraq war evidence under pressure from Downing Street


Mopping up: British soldier prepares to jump from a burning tank which was set ablaze in Basra

Daily Mail | Aug 12, 2011

By Tony Rennell

The exhausted secret intelligence officer was heading home after a heavy session analysing reports from Iraq. As he stepped out through the high-security air-lock exit from MI6’s grand headquarters beside the Thames in London, a newspaper-seller’s placard caught his eye — ‘45 minutes from attack,’ it proclaimed.

Alarm bells rang in his head. It was September 2002, and Prime Minister Tony Blair had that day unveiled with great fanfare the government’s dossier detailing Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, as a justification for going to war.

He knew, in a way the public did not, the precise background to that headline. His first thought was that this was not what the original intelligence report had said. ‘If this goes wrong, we’re all screwed,’ he muttered to himself.

It did go wrong, spectacularly so, as a new history of MI6 by the BBC’s well-informed security correspondent Gordon Corera recounts. It’s a disturbing story of how tiny sparks of dubious information picked up in the backstreets of Baghdad and elsewhere were fanned into giant flames.

The result was a firecracker of a dossier which was pivotal in the run-up to the deeply divisive British and American invasion of Iraq. For many people, the scary information it disclosed — that Saddam was so advanced with his chemical and biological weapons that he could fire them with a mere 45 minutes notice — was a tipping point.

Millions who had been sceptical about the reality of the Iraq threat were brought up short by the Prime Minister’s assurance that the evidence of Saddam’s evil intentions was ‘extensive, detailed and authoritative’. The case for confronting him was cut and dried.

Only later would it emerge how dodgy that dossier actually was.

Yet disastrous consequences flowed from its false and exaggerated claims. They were cited as a pretext for the conquest of Iraq, which led to tens of thousands of deaths.

They also caused a damaging clash between the government and the BBC over suggestions that the dossier had been ‘sexed-up’ and the mysterious death of a respected weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly.

For MI6, the dossier brought the biggest crisis of confidence since the infamous Cambridge spy ring and the defection of one of its top men, Kim Philby, to the Soviet Union in 1963.

What happened was a lesson in the distortion that can arise when the painstaking craft of intelligence-gathering — MI6’s pride and joy since its inception in 1909 — was over-ridden by the wishful thinking and unrelenting ambition of politicians.

Full Story

Soros calls on Portugal and Greece to pull out of the euro and quit the EU


George Soros says both Greece and Portugal should dump the euro and quit the EU because of their massive debts

dailymail.co.uk | Aug 15, 2011

Greece and Portugal should quit the euro to help save the currency, George Soros said yesterday.

The former currency speculator turned billionaire philanthropist also backed the idea of a euro bond, where debt is issued jointly by member states.

He said: ‘Countries sharing the currency must be able to refinance a large part of their debt under the same conditions.’

Such a bond would allow Europe’s poorer countries to raise money cheaply, because French and German financial muscle would act as a guarantee.

Soros told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that Portugal and Greece leaving would not kill off the euro – or the EU.

Debt-stricken Greece and Portugal are struggling to implement eurozone and International Monetary Fund-mandated reforms by slashing spending and raising taxes in exchange for financial aid.

European shares experienced slight gains as investors focused on tomorrow’s meeting between France and Germany to deal with the current financial crisis in the region.

President Nicholas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel have taken leading roles in the debt crisis and will hold talks and a press conference in Paris.

Soros also suggested the time had come for eurozone members to accept the introduction of eurobonds.

‘Whether you like it or not, the euro exists. And for it to function properly, countries sharing the currency must be able to refinance a large part of their debt under the same conditions,’ he said.

Berlin is opposed to the introduction of such bonds, but Soros suggested Germany, as Europe’s strongest financial partner, should be responsible for defining the rules for its introduction.

Soros, who made over $1billion by betting against the British pound in 1992, also said he had no intention of playing the market against the common european currency.

Full story

Warren Buffett calls on ‘coddled mega-rich’ to pay taxes


Billionaire investor Warren Buffett says his super rich friends are not paying enough taxes. (Mustafa Quraishi/Associated Press)

CBC News | Aug 15, 2011

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is calling on his “mega-rich” friends to pay more in taxes, saying they’ve been protected too long from the government.

“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress,” Buffett wrote in an op-ed piece in the New York Times. “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

Buffett said investment managers like himself can classify their income as carried interest, meaning they pay only a 15-per-cent tax rate.

“These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places,” he wrote.

He said the mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 per cent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. But he said the middle class pay somewhere in between 15 per cent and 25 per cent and also pay heavy payroll taxes.

Buffett said tax rates should be raised for those making more than $1 million and an additional increase for those who make $10 million or more.

“Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering,” Buffett said.